|The Pope receives the bishops of Cote d'Ivoire: the role of the Church can be crucial in rebuilding your country|
Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The bishops of Cote d'Ivoire were received by the Holy Father this morning, at the end of their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit, and the written discourse he handed to them emphasised the need for dialogue and brotherhood among prelates and their priests, along with the successful inculturation of faith.
“The fraternal communion that unites the bishops of a nation around Christ is essential for the growth of the Church as well as for the progress of society as as whole”, he writes. “This is especially true in a country that has suffered serious divisions and is in need of your witness and your firm commitment to rebuilding fraternity. Let us not be robbed of the ideal of brotherly love! By really being brothers, open to dialogue and mutual trust, listening to all – even when there are differences and contradictions – and making space for everyone, especially the youngest among you, you will provide a new missionary impulse and will truly transform society, so that it is more consistent with the Gospel ideal”.
“Therefore”, he continued, “I can only encourage you to take on the role that is yours in the task of national reconciliation, setting aside any personal involvement in political disputes at the expense of the common good. However, it is important to maintain constructive relations with the authorities within the country, as well as with the various components of society, so as to spread the true evangelical spirit of dialogue and collaboration. The role of the Church – which is valued and listened to – can be crucial. … I urge you to continue in your dialogue with Muslims, so as to discourage any drift towards violence or any incorrect religious interpretation of the conflict you have experienced”.
“Of course, you are not alone in facing the enormous task of evangelisation and the conversion of hearts: you have the support of the clergy, generous and motivated, and whose numbers continue to grow”, he remarks. “However, to avoid difficulties and shortcomings that some priests encounter, the best approach is without doubt to ensure the quality of formation, both initial and permanent, the encouragement of a priestly fraternity that overcomes ethnic divisions and, in particular, the closeness and attention that, like loving and caring fathers, you must give to each one of them. Use, wherever possible, gentleness, persuasion and encouragement to awaken pastoral zeal, rather than immediate sanctions or severity. I urge you to visit your priests often in order to listen to them and get to know them better. The formation of a fraternal, united 'presbyterium' around the bishop is necessary for a priest to remain attached to his own diocese and to prioritise its needs, rather than giving in to the temptation to leave it, to the detriment of the people of God who need his ministry”.
The Pope offers warm thanks to the consecrated persons for “the considerable task they take on, along with laypersons working alongside them, in the sectors of education, health and development. Their work is appreciated by all and is absolutely indispensable in view of the intimate connection between evangelisation and human development”: He also invites the bishops to ensure their pastoral closeness to all the lay faithful, but especially families, “who are more fragile nowadays, both on account of the secularisation of Ivorian society and the movement of the population and divisions caused by the conflict, as well as by less morally demanding temptations that arise all around them”. The Pontiff also draws attention to the elderly as, “despite the traditional African mentality that reserves a special veneration for them, many now find themselves alone and abandoned, due to the 'throwaway' culture that has appeared in your societies. However, their participation is essential for the equilibrium of the people and the education of the young”.
Francis concludes by expressing his joy and gratitude for the great work of evangelisation that is being carried out in Cote d'Ivoire. “However”, he warns, “faith remains fragile and the wind does not blow in its favour. Often, as the recent conflicts have unfortunately shown, ethnic particularism overrides evangelical fraternity, and many baptised persons, tired or disillusioned, drift away from the light of truth in search of easier solutions, whereas others simply do not put the demands of faith into practice in their lives. Undoubtedly the key for the future is found partly in ensuring the Word of God is more deeply rooted in people's hearts. It is certainly also necessary to enter into deeper dialogue with cultural, religious and traditional reality in order to achieve a true inculturation of our faith, unambiguously rejected what is contrary to it while welcoming and nurturing what is good. I therefore encourage you to continue ceaselessly in your work of evangelisation. In this way, the Church in Cote d'Ivoire can face the challenges of the future with serenity”.
|Francis to bishops: men able to cultivate God's fields|
Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the bishops appointed during the last year, who are participating in the congress organised by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Francis commented that he was happy to meet them and said that they were “the fruit of the arduous work and tireless prayer of the Church who, when she chooses her pastors, recalls that entire night the Lord spent on the mount, in the presence of the Father, before naming those He wanted to stay with him and to go forth into the world”.
The Pope asked them now that they have overcome their initial fears and excitement of their consecration, never to take for granted the ministry entrusted to them, never to lose their wonder before God's plan nor the awe of walking aware of His presence and the presence of the Church who is, first and foremost, His. He also reminded them of “the inseparable bond between the stable presence of the bishop and the growth of the flock”. “When the pastor is missing or unavailable, pastoral care and the salvation of souls is at risk. In fact, in the pastors Christ gives to the Church, He shows His love for His bride and gives His life for her”.
He continued, “we do not need superficially happy bishops; it is necessary to dig deeper to discover what the Spirit continues to inspire in your Bride. You are not fixed-term bishops, who always need to change address, like medicines that lose their power to cure, or like those insipid foodstuffs that have to be thrown away because they have lost their usefulness. It is important not to block the curative force that springs from within the gift you have received, and this defends you from the temptation to come and go aimlessly, because no wind is favourable to he who does not know where he is going. And we have learned where we are going: we are always going towards Jesus”. He added, “in this way, your watch over your flock will never fail to encounter the flame of the Risen Christ”.
“I also beg you not to fall prey to the temptation to change the people. Love the people that God has given you, even when they have committed grave sins, without tiring of turning to the Lord for forgiveness and a new beginning, even at the cost of having to cancel your false images of the divine face or the fantasies you have nurtured of how to ensure their communion with God”. The Church, he added, is to offer “welcome to all without discrimination, offering the firmness of the authority that enables growth and the gentleness of paternity that generates. Do not fall prey the temptation to sacrifice your freedom by surrounding yourself with courts, networks or choirs of assent, as the Church and the world always have the right to hear from the lips of bishops the Gospel that sets them free”.
Pope Francis advised the bishops to imitate Moses' patience in leading his people, as “nothing is more important than introducing people to God!”. He therefore urged them to begin with the young and the elderly, “because the first are our wings, and the second are our roots. Wings and roots without which we do not know what we are, much less where we are going”. He added that he saw the bishops as sentinels, able to awaken their Churches; “men able to cultivate and ripen God's fields and pastors able to restore unity. “Do not waste energy in conflict and disagreement, but rather use it to build and to love”, he concluded, wishing them “fruitfulness, patience, humility and much prayer”.
Vatican City, 18 September 2014 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience fourteen prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Cote d'Ivoire on their “ad Limina” visit:
- Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa, archbishop of Abidjan;
- Bishop Alexis Touabli Youlo of Agboville;
- Bishop Raymond Ahoua, F.D.P., of Grand-Bassam;
- Archbishop Paul-Simeon Ahouanan Djro, O.F.M., of Bouake;
- Bishop Ziri Boniface Gbaya of Abengourou;
- Bishop Marcellin Yao Kouadio of Yamoussoukro;
- Archbishop Joseph Ake Yapo of Gagnoa;
- Bishop Maurice Konan Kouassi of Daloa;
- Bishop Gaspard Beby Gneba of Man;
- Bishop Jean-Jacques Koffi Oi Koffi of San Pedro-en-Cote d'Ivoire;
- Archbishop Marie-Daniel Dadiet of Korhogo;
- Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo of Katiola;
- Bishop Antoine Kone of Odienne;
- Bishop Jean Salomon Lezoutie, coadjutor of Yopougon.
|Other Pontifical Acts|
Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Anthony Colin Fisher of Parramatta, Australia, as metropolitan archbishop of Sydney (area 1,264, population 2,482,000, Catholics 664,000, priests 484, permanent deacons 3, religious 1,537), Australia.